2020 Michigan State Championship Odds: Spartans Take Traditional Approach in Pursuit of Title
The Michigan State Spartans are easy for some people to root for because they represent an almost old-fashioned approach to team building. They don't chase five-star one-and-done players - likely because they wouldn't land them if they did chase them. Instead, they recruit smart players and let them develop at their own pace. It's the opposite of what schools like Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina are these days. But it's an approach that can work - Virginia and Villanova have used some version of the same approach to win titles since Michigan State won their last one in 2000.
Driving the bus is point guard Cassius Winston, who is the strong +140 favorite to win the national player of the year crown - Jordan Nwora and Cole Anthony are tied for second well back at +550. The senior was Big Ten player of the year last year even though his knees weren't cooperating. With better health this year, he'll be all but unstoppable. Joining him in the backcourt is Aaron Henry, a sophomore who shoots well and has room to grow after last year. What they won't have, though, is Joshua Langford. The senior guard missed more than half the season last year with ankle problems, and the same issues will keep him out until at least January. That's a blow.
The frontcourt isn't less experienced. Xavier Tillman, a junior, could be one of the best all-around bigs in the country this year. Senior Kyle Ahrens could be larger, but he has lots of upside as well. And guys like Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham could be poised to take big leaps in responsibility and production.
Michigan State Spartans Additions/Losses
The team has added a recruiting class that is well beyond the other top contenders, ranking 27th nationally. They added just three freshmen. Guard Rocket Watts is not just the highest-rated recruit, but also the best named. The combo guard is a natural scorer and will find time at both guard positions. He played club ball alongside LaMelo Ball. Malik Hall is a forward who can shoot and defend and could play his way into a starting role this year if he adjusts to this level well. And Julius Marble is a three-star forward who is probably a good candidate to redshirt if the team can stay healthy enough. He was a late addition to the class.
The team was hoping to have a boost from a transfer in former Marquette forward Joey Hauser, who has three years of eligibility and could start at the No. 4 for that time. The team suffered a setback, though, when his initial request for a waiver was rejected by the NCAA. He's appealing but is likely to miss this year.
The team didn't lose any players to the draft last year. They did say goodbye to two big pieces in the frontcourt, though, in Nick Ward and Kenny Goins. Ward, who declared for the draft as a junior and was not taken, was second on the team in scoring despite coming off the bench. Goins led the team in rebounding while starting at the No. 4.
Michigan State Spartans Schedule
The nonconference schedule is, to pick a word that best describes it, brutal. They open with an epic clash at Madison Square Garden against Kentucky, which ranks second in the country. Later in November they head to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, which will likely end in them facing Kansas, ranked third in the preseason polls. Then their next game after that tournament is in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, where they drew Duke, the preseason No. 4. So, the top-ranked team in the country likely plays the next three ranked teams in the first month of the season. At least we'll have a decent sense of where this team stands heading into December. The Big Ten is one of the more brutal leagues in the country, but given the way the nonconference schedule goes, and the fact that the conference doesn't look quite as strong as it has been, conference play could actually be a relief for this team.
Michigan State Spartans Futures Odds and Trends
Michigan State is very heavily favored to win the Big Ten. They sit at +150, with Maryland and Purdue tied next at +600. That makes sense since they are also favored, alongside Kentucky, to win the national title at +800. Their season win total is set at 29, which is tied for the highest in the country.
The team wasn't just strong on the court last year, winning 32 games. They were also stellar for bettors, running up a highly profitable 27-12 ATS mark last year, which was second best nationally and best of all major conference teams. There were also long-term profits to be had betting the total, as the team went under 23 times and over just 15.
Michigan State Spartans Predictions
I'm a Big Ten fan, but not because of the Spartans. So, while I obviously respect what they have done over the years, I am not inclined to love them. But I also watch a lot of Big Ten ball, and I know that Winston is basically designed for college basketball success. He's spectacular, and he has enough to work with here to do some real damage. They need some less experienced players to step up, and they need huge seasons from the vets - especially Winston and Tillman. I don't know that I am entirely confident about their chances of coming through the first month of the season without a rough loss or two. But the team will shine by the time conference time rolls around. They will win the conference, will give the season win total a real test and likely go over, and are going to be in the mix. I don't think they will wind up cutting down the nets this year, but I wouldn't be shocked to be wrong.
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